Kitchen Design Through The Ages

March 20, 2013

We've come a long way from holding a bit of something on a stick over a fire to cook. Now, we're sophisticated, demanding chefs who want the latest gadgets, gizmos and time-saving devices to help us rustle up something special for supper. This article strolls through a short history of kitchen design, and includes what's hot now, and what's changed over the years.

Early years

The earliest integrated household kitchens would have belonged to larger homes in ancient Greece. But for your average citizen a place to cook, with a place to grind flour would have been located outside the shelter of the living areas.

In Britain, we had round houses in the Bronze Age, and most food was fairly basic and required the very minimum in cooking appliances. A pot, a ladle and a hot stone to bake flatbread on was pretty much it. The smoke escaped through the thatch, and the cooking fire was used as much to warm the house as to cook food on.

Open fire cooking continued through the medieval period, with the advent of chimneys helping a great deal to eliminate the worst of the smoky effects of making dinner.

Purpose-built kitchens

Industrial developments led to the invention of the first enclosed stove in the mid-1700s. Around the same time, a design influence emerged from the Shaker's style of wood craftsmanship, from the North-eastern United States. This simple, functional and well-crafted style of woodworking is still popular and influential in kitchen design today.

The first 'fitted kitchens'

The 1930s saw the first interlinked kitchen units, made up of a sink with hot and cold running water, a larder or cold store, and a gas or electric stove. These developed over the years to include cupboards and work surfaces, and throughout the 1950s and 1960s they started to become a status symbol within the home. Just think of those characteristic brown 1970s kitchens with the early Kenwood mixers and sandwich makers! Imagine Abigail serving her party food through the serving hatch, or wheeling out a heated hostess trolley. This was the period when the kitchen started to become the star of the home.

The birth of open plan

Thankfully, the eighties rolled in, with big hair, neon, and plenty of attitude – including in the kitchen. Cooking ordinary food went out, and new and exciting gastronomy came in. Home kitchens caught up by opening up the living space, and open plan kitchen-diners were born. Now you could cook and entertain at the same time in your airy, spacious kitchen-dining room. This is still immensely popular in modern kitchen design today.

What's trending in the kitchen design world now?

Today's kitchen designs demand the inclusion of the latest, most efficient appliances. Here are the three main trends that are hot right now:

1. Modern minimalist

Glossy doors, clean lines, and granite worktops are hot now for a sleek, contemporary look.

2. Country 'Shaker' style

Revisiting those classic US designs of the 18th Century, but with bang up-to-date materials and clever design features. Wooden worktops and painted wooden doors are popular, with simple rustic designs reminiscent of the Shaker style. 

3. Kitchen refurbishments

Updating kitchens piece by piece rather than starting from scratch is extremely popular, owing to an uncertain financial climate and the popularity of 'up-cycling'. Budget conscious homeowners would often prefer to renovate a kitchen than to scrap it and buy new. You get the same great effect, but with minimum disruption and a lot smaller financial impact on your budget.


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